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Independents' Day

GP practices advised to triage all online bookings remotely due to coronavirus

GP practices have been advised to remote triage all patients who use online booking in order to ‘mitigate any risk’ of patients infected with Covid-19 attending the practice.

In a letter sent to practices by NHS England late yesterday (Thursday), practices were advised to make changes to their online bookings to prevent ‘potentially infected patients’ from attending the practice by initially triaging via telephone or video. 

Last month, practices around the country defied the national stance and suspended online appointment bookings, after NHS England refused the BMA’s request for a blanket suspension due to the outbreak.

In the letter, NHS England director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said: ‘To mitigate any risk that potentially infected patients book appointments online and attend the practice when they should be receiving advice to self-isolate or go through testing, all practices are now being advised to change face-to-face appointments booked online to triage appointments via telephone or video.’

The letter also confirmed that all practices will receive an ‘initial stock’ of personal protective equipment (PPE), including ‘400 general use aprons, 300 pairs of examination gloves and 300 fluid repellent face masks’.

However, it said that these will be issued ‘early next week’, adding: ‘Larger surgeries will receive repeat deliveries to ensure they have sufficient amounts.’

The letter also advised practices to consider putting 'all suitable patients' on electronic repeat dispensing 'as soon as possible'.

However, it added: 'Practices should not change their repeat prescription durations or support patients trying to stockpile: these actions may put a strain on the supply chain and exacerbate any potential shortages.'  

Across the UK, at least 20 GP practices have been forced to close for deep cleaning after potential exposure, while a small number of practices have now moved to a telephone-first model of consultation to avoid walk-in cases.

It comes as Pulse revealed that the new programme of ‘random’ testing within GP practices has detected two coronavirus cases, both within Surrey.

Earlier this week, the Government announced a UK-wide action plan to deal with the outbreak, which it said could affect 80% of the population in a worst-case scenario.

Planned measures for the NHS to tackle the epidemic include the GMC re-registering retired doctors; drafting in medical students; cancellations of routine care; and NHS staff being allowed to forcibly detain patients suspected of having the virus.

NHS England has already declared the outbreak a 'stage 4' emergency, meaning it can take control of local NHS resources, such as for example emergency bed planning.

Yesterday, it was announced that the first patient in England who tested positive for Covid-19 has died. It is believed that they contracted the virus in the UK.

On the latest count, a total of 18,083 people had been tested in the UK, of which 115 were confirmed positive - 30 more than yesterday.

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Readers' comments (20)

  • When on earth do we have time to do this as well?!

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  • Does this mean have no appointments, do them all by phone/video? That’s freeing up the time!

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  • Hey NHSE idiots!
    How about suspeding online booking so that patients can be triaged at the time of booking?

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  • Angus your suggestion is the sensible one...... you would think it would make sense to stop online booking, and triage as they call for appointment...... how are you going to be sure to be able to call them back in time to ensure they dont turn up if they shouldn't....answer is you can't...... as usual Nikita Kanani has ideas even if they dont work..... aren't sensible.... and aren't a solution..... they will be imposed upon us, like PCNs..... and they wonder why we are so cynical and fed up..... she should be seeing patients like everyone else....... but she likely thinks she's too important to be doing that......

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  • It seems a weird compromise: presumably the 'online access' agenda is still more important to NK and NHSE than staff and patient safety.
    Operationally it is a dumb solution and difficult to implement.
    Temporary switch off is very clearly the obvious sensible solution.
    Lots of practices have already taken this step, and we have done it today. Be interesting to see how many breach notices are served, given the political sensitivity and the fact it is so obviously the right thing to do, I suspect... none.

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  • Good for you DT.... oh hang on, NK says we are all supporting her... is that actually true or is her detachment from reality still continuing?.... can we please have a Pulse survey on this issue ...should the online bookings be switched off.... we need to get this NHSe incompetence into the public domain..... why am I not surprised that those at the coalface are yet again more practical and useful than our leadership?

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  • My suggestion to all while politicians play with life (including ours) and death. Embargo your 'online' slots, otherwise add oil and catastrophe to the coming inferno.

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  • Turn them off, if no one is going to help safeguard us we need to do it ourselves.

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  • We turned our off last week,and the majority of neighbouring practices have as well.

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  • Looks like everyone for themselves. We are the ones facing the virus not the armchair warriors or out of touch leaders. Do the sensible thing. I have turned mine off.

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